Posts Tagged ‘Chinese food’

Exotic Pepper From Around The World

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I’ve been hunting for some specialist peppers in recent months.  That’s what some of the thrill of being a spice merchant is all about – hunting for the exotic, tracking it down and then getting it in.

We already have a broader range of peppers than anyone else: vine pepper (Piper nigrum), long pepper (Piper retrofactum), cubeb pepper (Piper cubeba), grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta), Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum), pink pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), allspice (Pimenta dioica).  Vine pepper is what we call the classic black pepper plant;  with vine pepper you get 4 types of pepper from the one vine plant – green, black, white and red.

Now, I have got hold of some wild pepper from Madagascar and bush pepper from Tasmania and I am so very excited, like a little boy in a sweet shop, and cannot stop hopping from foot to foot – a bit sad really.

Tasmanian pepper

Tasmanian pepper

The Tasmanian pepper (Tasmania lanceolata) which is sometimes called Mountain pepper comes from the uplands of Tasmania and South East Australia.  Strangely, the indigenous Aboriginal peoples are thought not to have used these for spicing foods, although this may simply be colonial wishful thinking.  The berries are dark bluey-black in colour and have a 5 – 8mm diameter knobbly round shape, with a ridge around the centre.

In Australia, the Mountain pepperleaf is popular and can be bought ground, having a pleasant, lemon-pepper flavour. 

The berries are sweet at first, but the aftertaste lingers and builds over 5 or so minutes becoming really sharp, pungent and numbing – they are way hotter than classic black peppercorns so use one-tenth of the amount you would normally flavour with and don’t put directly onto food instead use them slow-cooked in stews or soups (they’re just too bitingly hot).  You have been warned!  Another way  it is used is mixed with other native Australian foods to create a bush spices mix of wattle, lemon myrtle and Mountain pepper.

Voatsiperifery pepper vine in Madagascan forest

Voatsiperifery pepper vine in Madagascan forest

The Madagascan wild Voatsiperifery pepper (Piper borbonense) is wild harvested from the forest on an organic cocoa estate, which sits right next to the estate where we get our pink peppercorns on the East coast of Madagascar.  They are called Voatsiperifery deriving from “Voa” meaning the fruits and “tsiperifery” which is the Malagasy for this pepper vine.  The wild pepper vines grow high in the trees, and the fruits only grow on the young, new grown shoots and are hand-harvested from the wild by farmers who go into the forest especially to pick them once a year.

Wild Voatsiperifery pepper

Wild Voatsiperifery pepper

The berries look similar to the comic-book-like bombs of the cubeb pepper (sometimes called Java pepper or tailed pepper) and are 3mm long ovals with a 5 – 6mm long tail.  They have a brown-black colour similar to normal black pepper.

The flavour of these Voatsiperifery peppercorns is earthy and woody taste, with a certain citrus floweriness that gives some freshness to the palate.  The flavours are long lasting.

Recipe – Sweet Oriental Duck

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Cooking your own Chinese style food is amazingly easy and tastes a load better than buying something from the supermarket.  There are some truly simple & quick meals that you can make.


4 duck breasts (about 450g)
2tsp Steenbergs Chinese 5 spice
4tbsp clear honey
Chinese egg noodles
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350g mange tout, cut in half
4 spring onions, sliced lengthways
2tbsp sunflower oil
2tsp sesame oil

Preheat oven to 180oC.

While the oven is warming up, place the duck breasts on a roasting tray.  Rub ½ tsp Chinese 5 spice into each duck breast and then pour over 1tbsp of the clear runny honey.  Leave the marinade for about half an hour.

Put the duck in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.  In the last 5 minutes while the duck is cooking, boil the egg noodles until cooked.

Heat a wok or heavy frying pan over a high heat.  Add 2tbsp sunflower oil and 2 tsp sesame oil and heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the onions and garlic and stir-fry until soft.  Add the mange tout and stir fry for about 2 minutes.

Take the duck from the oven and thinly slice.  Put some egg noodles onto each plate and then neatly layer some of the sliced roasted duck breast on top.  Place some of the stir-fried vegetables around the duck breast.

Eat immediately.

Recipe for Chinese Salt Buried Chicken

Saturday, June 13th, 2009


Here is another salty recipe.  It’s a traditional way of cooking in China and strangely is really delicious, even though it sounds far to salty.  While it seems a waste of salt, you can re-use the salt for similar meals – perhaps cook this first then the salt buried red snapper later.  


1.5kg                Whole chicken

1½tbsp             Fruit-flavoured brandy

1½tbsp             Soy sauce

4 slices             Fresh ginger

1                      Large onion, finely sliced

1tbsp                Steenbergs China 5 spice powder

2.75kg              Coarse sea salt


Preheat the oven to 180oC.


Mix together the brandy and soy sauce and use this to rub the chicken inside and outside.  Mix together the ginger, onion and China 5 spice and place this inside the chicken.  Leave to stand in a cool, well ventilated place for 2 hours to dry out.


Place the salt in a deep casserole dish and warm it through in the oven, stirring it once or twice to ensure that it is evenly heated through.  Make a well in the salt and bury the chicken, covering it completely.  Cover the casserole and warm it over a low heat for 10 minutes to warm through.  Transfer it into the preheated oven and cook for 1½ hours.


To serve, lift the chicken out of the casserole and brush it free of salt.  Chop it through the bone into 20 pieces and arrange on a double platter.  Serve hot, with rice or noodles, together with stir-fried vegetables.